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3 Exercises to Treat Back Pain

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While an immobile thoracic spine doesn’t necessarily cause pain directly in the mid-back, it may lead to pain in the shoulders, neck and lower back. “It’s common for people who are knotted up at the thoracic spine to make up for the lack of mobility there with excessive movement in the lumbar spine,” says Cressey. The result is lower-back pain, which affects 80 percent of Americans at one time or another.

The shoulders and neck also compensate for poor thoracic spine mobility, he adds. The shoulder blades gradually move away from the spine, making it more difficult to raise the arms overhead. This increases the likelihood of shoulder injuries and other problems.

“You may get neck pain and tension headaches due to compensations that take place in the cervical spine and the neck,” says Cressey.

To improve your thoracic flexibility, simply add a few extension and rotation exercises to your preworkout warm-up routine. (You’ll also benefit by adding lumbar stability exercises to your strength workouts.) Devote just a little time to mobilizing your mid-back, and you’ll feel the difference everywhere else.

Improve Your Mid-Back Mobility
Your thoracic spine moves in four ways: It flexes both forward and side to side, extends (bends backward), and rotates (twists left and right). Virtually everyone has plenty of thoracic spine flexion. It’s the capacity to extend and rotate that is restricted in most of us.

To improve your thoracic spine mobility, regularly perform exercises involving extension and rotation of the thoracic spine. Eric Cressey, CSCS, owner of Cressey Performance Training Center in Hudson, Mass., recommends you include these exercises in your warm-up routine.

Supine Thoracic Spine Mobilization With Tennis Balls
Exercise with Tennis Balls
Duct tape two tennis balls together and place them on the floor. Lie face-up on the floor so the balls are underneath your mid-back, with one ball on either side of your spine. Your knees should be sharply bent, feet flat on the floor. Bend your elbows 90 degrees and press your forearms together in front of your face in a “prayer” position to spread your shoulder blades away from your spine and give the tennis balls better access to the muscles on either side of your thoracic spine.

Allow the weight of your torso to sink into the tennis balls so that your mid-back arches around them. Keeping your lower back in contact with the floor, contract your abs and curl your torso upward slightly in a crunch. Scoot your butt forward on the floor and lie back again so that your spine extends over the tennis balls at a point just above where it did so previously. Continue to curl up, scoot forward and lie back until the ball has traveled from the point of your spine that’s about even with your belly button all the way up to just above the level of your shoulder blades.

Next: Two more exercises to correct back pain

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.


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2:22PM PST on Jan 31, 2014

If you can do yoga I'm sure it will help as it stretches and makes the back more flexible.

12:49PM PST on Jan 3, 2014

Thank you for the info to get me BACK in gear! Hope to utilize this info in that regard...

2:19AM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

Thank you.

11:03AM PDT on Mar 31, 2013

I get some back pain so this is good to know

8:00PM PDT on Sep 10, 2012

I've done the tennis ball thing before. It feels great!

9:23AM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

Really great article on getting pain relief from Sciatic nerve pain. Have you seen this other site on interventional pain management review, it's similar to yours. interventional pain management review This site is contributing to all people with any chronical pain.

7:44PM PDT on Jun 14, 2012


8:14PM PDT on Apr 24, 2012

Great information. Thanks for sharing.

2:05AM PDT on Apr 19, 2012

Thanks for valuable article and its very useful,especially for chronic suffers.Cheers

12:09AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

Well, I do home care, so I'm not exactly what you'd call sedentary. My thoracic part of my back is sore, and no, I'm not weak... My muscles there are just as strong as a strong man's. Yet it's always hurting, constantly. and is stiff, and no, it doesn't seem to matter what I try. I am so stiff and sore that no, I can't get on the floor, it's difficult, and then impossible to get back up w/o help. If my spine in the area is cracked wrong, I get pneumonia. How do you exercise when you can't move?

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